Reedies had a chance to escape both the rain and their problem sets last Friday, November 2, for the Gray Fund Celebration Event held in the Student Union (SU). Students were treated to free food, music, and a variety of different games including giant Jenga and Connect Four. And, as if this weren’t enough to boost Reedies out of their post-fall break slump – have any of us truly recovered? — the event also featured a raffle with prizes that ranged from a free iPad to a $100 gift certificate.
The Gray Fund has its origins in an endowment gifted to Reed in 1991 by Betty Gray, an active member and supporter of the Reed community whose name also adorns the Gray Campus Center. According to the Office for Student Engagement, Gray hoped that the endowment would provide an opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to enjoy “activities outside the classroom which complement the college’s academic program.”
Since then, the Gray Fund has hosted dozens of both on-campus events and off-campus trips. Reedies interested in attending off-campus trips must sign up for a lottery, and those selected are treated to an all-expenses-paid excursion, in which everything from transportation to meal costs are covered by the college. Recent trips have taken Reedies everywhere from indoor Go-Kart racing to the Lan Su Chinese Garden.
Jamila Dozier, Assistant Director of the Office for Student Engagement, explained that the November 2 Celebration Event had two purposes. The first goes without saying: the choice between spending Friday afternoon playing life-sized Jenga or struggling through yet another obscure Latin poem is obvious — unless you forgot your soul at Commons this morning.
But the event also was an opportunity for the Gray Fund Committee to unveil several upcoming changes which, according to Dozier, have big implications for student engagement with the Gray Fund in the future.
Firstly, both millenials and Mark Zuckerberg will rejoice: the Gray Fund is entering the twenty-first century with a bang, leaving pen and paper behind in favor of increasing online and social media presence.
Currently, students interested in going on a trip must make their way to the Student Center or Sports Center and physically fill out a form in order to enter a lottery. According to Dozier, students may find the process too cumbersome. Going forward, sign-ups will be conducted online: students will simply have to complete a Google form to enter the Gray Fund lottery.
Furthermore, there will be more opportunities for student suggestions and input regarding event details and trip locations. Finally, Gray Fund staff and student coordinators are working towards creating an active Instagram page which, according to Dozier, will help advertise events to the student body.
“We have such a great endowment, but only a handful of students who sign up can benefit from it,” Dozier said. “A lot [of students] don’t even know about the trip […] we want to make sure students all have the chance to participate.”
Gray Fund student coordinator Kevin Alarcon agrees. “Having a bigger social media presence will help a lot in having [students] actually know about the events,” Alarcon said. “Many people just don’t know about [the trips].”
The second big change concerns the location of Gray Fund events. Currently, the majority of Gray Fund trips are off-campus. While this provides a great opportunity for Reedies to escape the clutches of the library and explore the greater Portland area, it also means that students who don’t sign up for the trips have little exposure to Gray Fund events.
So, starting next semester, Gray Fund will host regular activities every Friday in the SU. While the precise details of the events are yet to be decided, Dozier thinks that such weekly, on-campus events will go a long ways in “helping bring fun to students.”
“It lets more people get involved with [Gray Fund],” Dozier said. “We want to help students find that balance of having fun and not feeling bad about it.”
Alarcon is especially excited about this change. As a student coordinator charged with the planning and logistics of the events, they are often unable to participate in the off-campus trips.
“With the new stuff on campus, I’ll be able to be more involved in the events themselves, so I’m looking forward to that,” Alarcon said. Furthermore, like Dozier, Alarcon believes that the benefits of regular, on-campus programming would affect the entire student body. “The [new Friday events] will give students a place to relax from schoolwork,” Alarcon said. “You’re going to need to let your brain rest […] You’ll be able to stop by and just chill, eat, listen to some tunes, and play some games.”
Daksh Shami ‘23 and Zoe Watch ‘22 were two of the handful of Reedies who showed up to the November 2 Celebration Event. After duking it out in Connect Four — Watch emerged as the triumphant victor — they took a seat at one of the many tables scattered across the SU, and snacked while listening to music.
“How can you ever go wrong with free food?” Shami asked, as Watch nodded in assent. Neither had ever gone on an off-campus Gray Fund trip — Shami said that he “wasn’t really sure where or how to sign up for trips”, and Watch said that she was often too busy to attend full-day, off-campus events even if the sign-up process would become more straightforward.
Fortunately, the upcoming changes to Gray Fund address both these issues: online sign-ups will make trip lotteries more accessible to students; and the weekly on-campus programming will provide an opportunity for busy students like Watch to engage with the Gray Fund more casually. If all goes according to plan, Shami, Watch, and other Reedies will have more chances to discover the “fun” in Gray Fund.